Published January 31, 2020 | Version v1
Journal article Open

Undesirable substances in seafood – results from the Icelandic marine monitoring activities in the year 2019


This report summarises the results obtained in 2019 for the screening of various undesirable substances in the edible part of Icelandic marine catches.

The main aim of this project is to gather data and evaluate the status of Icelandic seafood products in terms of undesirable substances and to utilise the data to estimate the exposure of consumers to these substances from Icelandic seafood and risks related to public health. The surveillance programme began in 2003 and was carried out for ten consecutive years before it was interrupted. The project was revived in March 2017 to fill in gaps of knowledge regarding the level of undesirable substances in economically important marine catches for Icelandic export. Due to financial limitations the surveillance now only covers screening for undesirable substances in the edible portion of marine catches for human consumption and not feed or feed components. The limited financial resources have also required the analysis of PAHs, PBDEs and PFCs to be excluded from the surveillance, providing somewhat more limited information than in 2013. However, it is considered a long-term project where extension and revision is constantly necessary. 

In general, the results obtained in 2019 were in agreement with previous results on undesirable substances in the edible part of marine catches obtained in the monitoring years 2003 to 2012 and 2017 & 2018.

In this report from the surveillance programme, the maximum levels for dioxins, dioxin-like PCBs and non-dioxin-like PCBs in foodstuffs (Regulation No 1259/2011) were used to evaluate how Icelandic seafood products measure up to limits currently in effect.

The results show that in regard to the maximum levels set in the regulation, the edible parts of Icelandic seafood products contain negligible amounts of dioxins, dioxin like and non-dioxin-like PCBs. In fact, all samples of seafood analysed in 2019 were below EC maximum levels.

Furthermore, the concentration of ICES6-PCBs was found to be low in the edible part of the marine catches, compared to the maximum limits set by the EU (Commission Regulation 1259/2011).

The results also revealed that the concentrations of heavy metals, e.g. cadmium (Cd), lead (Pb) and mercury (Hg) in the edible part of marine catches were in all samples, except one, well below the maximum limits set by the EU.


Funding: Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture, Iceland



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